Ask the Experts: 15 Trout Guide Secrets

Our writer picks the brains of three trout masters. Here's what he found out.

Field & Stream Online Editors

What's the no. 1 casting flaw?
Palmerton: Not waiting for the back cast to unfold. That's the most important part of the cast, where you create energy to drive the line.
Gunn: Spending too much time false casting. A fly in the air has never caught a fish but has certainly tangled.
Whitley: Not letting line extend completely. You have to let the line extend for the rod to load, and most people jump the gun with their timing.

What spot on a river is most often overlooked?
Palmerton: Hidden seams in the middle of the river, where slight depressions in the bottom produce a change in the water only visible to the trained eye.
Gunn: Many anglers wade into the water that they should be fishing. Before entering the water always stop, look, and study what's right in front of you.
Whitley: Near banks, very tight to the shore. Of course, this is where most people walk into the river. It's worth casting before you get your boots wet.

Every guide has pet peeves. Fess up...
Palmerton: I hate seeing trout mishandled, especially steelhead. It kills me when a guy wants a photo of a 10-pound steelie but doesn't grab it correctly by the tail.
Gunn: Loop-to-loop connections on freshwater lines. They negatively affect casting dynamics, cause the tip of the fly to sink, and get caught in the rod guides.
Whitley: Most people don't understand how subtly fish eat. It shouldn't take a bullhorn to convince people to set the hook. When in doubt, set it.

What is the key to landing big fish?
Palmerton: Move with the fish. If the fish is hot and you have a light tippet, stay even with him in the river. If you stand like a statue, you're done.
Gunn: Don't rush to get a fish on the reel, because any fish that you want on the reel is going to get there on its own. Control its head by getting it above the water.
Whitley: At the end, lower the rod tip to the water, at a 90-degree angle to the fish. When the fly line is at the end of the rod, rotate the tip upward, and lift the fish's head.

When do you know it's time to change flies?
Palmerton: For nymph fishing, the biggest variables are depth and presentation. I'll tinker with both of those things before I switch patterns.
Gunn: I try to stick to a proven pattern and not randomly switch flies. That said, I'm always open to trying a new pattern that a customer might have in his box.
Whitley: After six good drifts over fish I can see, I change. With dry flies, I'll drop down in size before I switch the pattern altogether.